I took a week off work, and I highly recommend it. It wasn’t a grand tour of Europe, which took place last year…and which drained my vacation budget. My more humble week away from work was intended as a means to reconnect with – and more fully appreciate – some of my favorite things. If you’ve checked out the “About” section of this blog or are a regular reader, you’ll know that my interests include, writing (which is a pre-requisite for blogging, I think), grilling, running, heavy metal, and management. That last item is the one from which I wanted to take a little break. The only rule of the vacation was to unplug from the office: no email or voice mail and certainly no meetings. It was exciting and liberating to be untethered, even if for only seven days. Let me recap the highlights…
The grilling went well. I began by spending a day smoking ribs for a gathering of appreciative family members, which made me happy. Another day, I grilled a batch of extra thick pork chops seasoned with a savory and spicy rub. The highlight of my week of live fire cooking was a soyu and red wine vinegar-marinated chuck roast that is the one preparation of beef that makes me think I could give up pork if I had to (the recipe is below). Don’t get me wrong, I love beef, but pork is king. However, this particular grilled chuck roast is so succulent and fatty that I experience a Pavlovian salivation response the moment it comes off the grill. I concluded the grilling adventure with bratwurst and mussels. I pretend it was a deconstructed Southern shellfish boil, but, in truth, it was just brats for the kids and mussels cooked in a butter and white wine broth for my wife and me. We had planned on having oysters, but the ten-year-old girl at the farmers’ market said the oysters were not good for harvesting at that time. When a ten-year-old tells you the oysters might be dangerous, it’s advice worth heeding. The mussels were delicious.
I had writing success as well. Obviously I didn’t get any blogging done, but I did finish the major revision of the manuscript on which I’ve been working. I still need to go through the “read it aloud” review as well as the more tedious editing of my bad writing habits (e.g., overuse of the word “that” and comma omissions). Soon I will start a new writing project: the Baker family’s European adventure.
In addition to taking a break from managing (and blogging), my week off was largely a vacation from running. I did manage to get in a three-miler while on the Oregon Coast. I wanted to run on the beach, along the surf, but getting to the part of the beach that was runnable required crossing a rather vast sand-dune filled desert. I knew by the time I reached the water’s edge, my shoes would be filled with sand. I opted instead to run along a coastal road. I enjoy running in a new location to get to know a place in a more personal way.
While most of the week was spent at home, we did spend two days on the Oregon coast by way of McMinnville, which is home to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. While I haven’t written about it here, I am a big fan of aviation. Some kids were obsessed with baseball cards and player statistics, but I was fanatical about World War II fighters and bombers. I highly recommend a visit to this cathedral of air and space travel. The highlight is the H-4 Hercules, better known as the Spruce Goose, built by Howard Hughes. It is the largest flying boat ever built and still holds the record for the largest wingspan of any airplane. It is beautifully awesome.
Towards the end of the week, I went downtown with my metal brother, Sean, to see a band perform at a local tavern. We were there to see Coven, a Seattle band that formed in the late 80s playing thrash metal with ludicrous satanic-themed lyrics. When we got to the bar, another band, Iron Kingdom, was playing. Sean and I were enthralled with this group of young guys playing solid Iron Maiden/Judas Priest-style metal. The singer/guitarist was quite a showman with solid vocal and guitar chops. The rest of the band rocked hard, and it was a great set. After they played, we hung out at their tiny merch table and spoke to two band members. They are early in their metal career that began auspiciously with an appearance on Canada’s Got Talent. Unfortunately, the show’s producers couldn’t pay their travel costs to go to the second round in a different city, so they didn’t get to compete at the next level. They weren’t disappointed. They know heavy metal is not a prime time reality show-winning genre. These guys will grind out their success on the road. I’m glad I got to see them, and I hope to see them again. Count me as a fan.
Closer to metal retirement, Coven took the stage and played a fun set of their absurdly evil tunes. Sean and I cheered this band that never broke through on a national scale – they definitely won’t be appearing on America’s Got Talent singing “Burn the Cross” or “Iron Dick” – but were nonetheless an important part of the Seattle thrash metal scene.
Sean and I reveled in the music and the metal scene. I stood elated in that small bar headbanging to bands, young and old, playing hard, fast, and loud. Metal rules!
I think I’m ready to get back to work. Thanks to family, flying boats, pork, chuck roast, Iron Kingdom, and Coven, my week away from the office renewed my enthusiasm for my job and reminded me how much I appreciate the things I appreciate. I should probably go for a run.
Marinated Chuck Roast
3 lb chuck roast (1.5 – 2” thick)
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp soyu
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire
- 1 tsp prepared mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp garlic salt
- 1 Tbsp lemon pepper
- 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-2 tsp soyu
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
Pierce meat with a fork repeatedly. Mix marinade ingredients in a large re-sealable plastic bag and put the meat in the bag to marinate at least 6 hours (overnight is good). Prepare the grill for direct grilling. Remove meat from the bag and discard the marinade. Use a paper towel to lightly wipe the excess marinade off the meat. Season both sides of the meat with the seasoning blend. Grill until it’s done (I rely on a meat thermometer and cook beef until it gets to 125°). Some charring is normal, but watch for excessive flames. Move meat to a cooler part of the grill if the inferno gets out of control. Remove meat from the grill and place on a cutting board that has been drizzled with the resting sauce ingredients. Let meat rest for five to ten minutes before slicing into delectable slabs.